Flooding in Arusha

The rainy season has definitely arrived, albeit 2 months late. I have never before witnessed such intense and consistent rainfall – it literally pelted for 10 hours straight yesterday, with widespread flooding. It’s a good thing we planted our banana trees last week.

Earlier this week, Sadath and I visited Arusha to announce the results of our selection of candidates for sponsorship at the JR Institute for Information Technology. Aside from our main project in Moshi for secondary school students, Kijana Kwanza is passionate about supporting older (well, those who are no longer teenagers) vocational students who aim to work in Tanzania’s nascent technical industries – and JR is one of the best and most progressive colleges I have visited.

We have selected 10 students to sponsor who have completed and passed their first year of college. We will support them for the next 2 years as they complete their Diploma.

The successful candidates represent a diverse group of students with their own tragic stories of growing up in poverty. Most come from families survive by way of subsistence farming, with a small income from the surplus during harvest. Even so they will earn no more than £3/$4 per day which makes it impossible to pay college fees. Many of the students are also the first from their families to pursue an education beyond secondary school.

Sadath and I led an induction and set out our expectations. Students are required to sign a Learner Agreement which includes a minimum pass mark of 70%, undertake voluntary work and to accept a job that the college offers them after completing their diploma for a minimum of 1 year. Up to 10% of their monthly wage is deducted as a contribution to the support costs of another round of sponsored students.

In reality, I am sure some students will fall short, but keeping expectations high is important so that they are encouraged to perform their best. I am not in the game of punishing students who are struggling (especially since they are the first in their families to pursue further education and where there may not be a culture of studying) but ensuring that they value our offering is fundamental if we are to produce longterm results.

And whilst it will be many years before we see the results of our support for secondary school students – the impact of our investment in vocational education may be sooner. I hope that in future we can work with a wider range of students at different colleges, studying a wider range of subjects such as agriculture, plumbing/electrical installation and construction.

Similar to the UK, and many developed countries, there is still an expectation that girls should study softer subjects such as business administration or tailoring. I have nothing against these subjects, but we must encourage girls to break through the glass ceiling and help them recognise that they too can be successful in traditionally male dominated professions.

My challenge is to find sponsors who can support the cost of vocational education. Until now I have paid registration fees for the students from my general fundraising pot but I need donors to “adopt” students so we can expand our sponsorship programme. At a cost of £40/month (or £480/year) it isn’t cheap. But if I’m to make this work, I need to find more donors who value vocational education as much as we do.

Mohammed S Mamdani